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Canterbury Christ Church University

Excavations 1983–2007

Client: Canterbury Christ Church University

The results of over 20 years of archaeological investigation within the North Holmes Road campus of Canterbury Christ Church University were drawn together to produce an Occasional Paper summarising the history of ground lying to the north-east of Canterbury and north of the standing remains of St Augustine’s Abbey. The remains from twenty-five sites were examined, comprising evaluations, excavations and watching briefs, revealing occupation spanning from prehistoric to modern times. 

 

The first direct evidence of settlement dates to the Bronze Age and is provided by pits, a ditch and a post-hole. Roman occupation was represented by part of a cremation cemetery, located beside the main Canterbury–Richborough Roman road, and a length of masonry water conduit which probably helped channel water into the town from hills to the north-east.

Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University

The first evidence of intense activity is dated to the mid Anglo-Saxon period, when the ground is thought to have held a craftworking centre servicing the monastery of St Peter and St Paul to the south, founded cAD 598. There was evidence of metalworking on an industrial scale. Activity declined in the second half of the ninth century, before becoming re-established in the middle of the eleventh when the abbey church and claustral buildings are thought to have been rebuilt. Industrial features including a casting pit, a lime kiln and two probable tile kilns were built, together with a barn. 

 

St Augustine’s Abbey expanded again from the mid thirteenth century with the development of the inner and outer courts. The project area covered a large part of the outer court where such service buildings as the cellarer’s range and brewhouse-bakehouse were located. A large portion of the brewhouse-bakehouse range was revealed, sufficient to suggest how the building would have functioned. A large circular masonry structure, added to the north end of the brewhouse in the fifteenth century, has no known parallels but may have been associated either with barley grain milling or the storage of hops. 

Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University

After the abbey was dissolved in 1538, parts were converted to a royal palace for Henry VIII whilst other structures were dismantled. North of the palace, a few buildings survived including the western end of the brewhouse-bakehouse range, the gable end of which survives today and is shown on the front of the Occasional Paper.

Anglo-Saxon strap-end